Johnny Williams reports on the Energize PA bill now before the Pennsylvania legislature and which would help further reinvigorating rural Pennsylvania.
Elected officials from all over the state gathered on a construction site just off of I-81 in rural Susquehanna County on Friday to make a point.
Against the backdrop of the green, rural hillsides of Gibson and next to the busy highway corridor, the site served as a prime example of how industry and quiet country living don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
The press conference, which featured numerous state representatives such as Jonathan Fritz (R-Susquehanna/Wayne), Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), Joshua Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) and several more, highlighted the various ways that the lawmakers are trying to encourage industry growth throughout the commonwealth so that family-supporting jobs could multiply.
Specifically, they named House Bill 1103, first put forth by Fritz, which is also known as Energize PA, and includes the PIPE Investment Program.
“This would expand pipeline grants to better ensure that the pipelines that are critical to making low-cost natural gas available everywhere are built, and create good jobs in the process,” Turzai stated.
What the legislation would do is encourage tax credits to pipeline projects that cost over $1 billion.
“Without that $1 billion investment, there’s no tax credit,” Kail added.
All of the legislators highlighted the construction of the Shell ethane cracker plant in western Pennsylvania as a prime example of why tax credits for such large-scale projects work.
“That’s a $7 billion investment. For reference, that’s enough for 20 to 30 skyscrapers,” Kail said. “The construction of the plant will lead to 6,500 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs once it’s up and running.”
Kail also explained that, as a result of the natural gas industry and the construction of the plant, Beaver County’s economy has grown exponentially – going from four hotels to 31 in just six years, and with many local businesses having their best fiscal years ever.
“But we need job growth everywhere, not just in cities,” Turzai said. “Great jobs lead to great schools and great communities.”
The state reps also voiced their opposition to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed severance tax, stating that the commonwealth gets enough taxes as a result of booming economies thanks to natural gas.
“I’m against a severance tax because I’m against taking away jobs,” Turzai said. “Sales tax, income tax – tax revenue all over is up because of this industry.”
Besides, as Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall alluded to, the state’s impact fee (which is really a tax anyway) generates more than enough money for local governments.
“We’ve been able to do tremendous things thanks to Act 13,” he said. “We’ve been able to pay off our debt – we’re entirely debt-free. We’re one of the few counties in the state with a fully-funded pension program. We’ve been able to get new equipment and buildings., build new roads and bridges – all to help the community without raising taxes.”
To take a phrase from one of the lawmakers at the event: while Gov. Wolf keeps trying to hit the industry with red tape while he could be taking a leaf from Energize PA and rolling out the red carpet. The natural gas industry promises good-paying jobs and careers while also providing opportunities for businesses, schools, hospitals, homes and virtually every other type of building in the state to use more affordable natural gas. It’s a win-win situation.